Pros: great story that stands the test of time, nice family dynamic, penguins!
Cons: some things are a bit dated
When I was in elementary school one of my teachers read Mr. Popper's Penguins to the class. I remember liking it, but hadn't read it since then. However when I saw that a movie was coming out with Jim Carrey I thought it would be fun to read with my six year old and I got a copy of it from the library.
This story was written in 1938, winning the Newbery Honor, and some of the things will be different and perhaps needs explanations to children since they will be unfamiliar with certain objects or the like, but it still is a fun story that can be appreciated over 70 years later.
The story begins with Mr. Popper who is a painter and painting season is coming to an end. His family will have to scrimp during the winter season to survive, but one day a package arrives from a great Admiral Drake, a penguin! The family makes accommodations for the penguin, changing their ice box to allow him to live in it and they name him Captain Cook. When Captain doesn't seem to be thriving they try to get some helping asking others questions and ultimately it is decided that Captain Cook is probably lonely and so the family receives a female penguin to keep him company. Well as male and female penguins tend to do, they lay an egg, but then she lays another and another until they have 10 eggs all together!
After the penguins all hatch, they eat a lot of shrimp which are starting to cost a lot of money so the Popper family decides to train the penguins to be able to perform on stage. The family is able to get an agent and travel all over the country with their performing penguins. At the end of the story the Admiral comes to check on the penguin he sent and he even has a proposal for Mr. Popper, but Hollywood is knocking on his door too to have the penguins be in the movies. It will be a tough decision, and you'll just have to read to find out how it ends.
This book is written by Richard and Florence Atwater. My copy had 20 chapters and was 139 pages long. I read it aloud with my son over a few days. There are also illustrations by Robert Lawson and we get to see the penguins. There is a lot of detail in each of the black and white and blue illustrations. I especially liked one where Mr. Popper was taking a penguin on a walk and the leash got all tangled up around a rather unhappy neighbor.
The story itself is interesting but I liked how there were plenty of other things to discuss with my son like that painters can't work painting houses in the winter, or that penguins eat shrimp and fish unlike the birds around our house that eat bird seed. There are many clever things that the family does, like how they mark the penguins to be able to tell the difference between them or the methods they use to train them.
This is a great book. Unfortunately the movie isn't very similar to the book, but there is a lot of fun going on in this book. The family (almost too) easily adjusts to the needs of the feathered friends and they all have a good time taking care of them and even getting a little famous in the process. If you are looking for a wonderful classic, this is a great book to pick up.